The abuse of prescription drugs is one of the leading substance addictions in the United States today. It has even been marked by the Center for Disease Control as an epidemic within the country.
A study put out by the government shows that, among young people, prescription drugs are the second most abused substance in the country, second to marijuana. New Mexico and Vermont are the two states in the country to receive a 10 out of 10 from the government for their anti-prescription drug abuse policies and programs that they have in place.
New Mexico's Success
New Mexico, in 2010, had the second highest mortality rate due to drug overdoses in the country. Since then, after several programs were introduced to curb prescription drug abuse by the New Mexico Department of Health, the mortality rate has dropped so low that instead of being measured by percentages of every 100,000 people, it is now simply measured in a grand total number.
For example, as reported by ktsm.com, in 2011, there were 24.2 deaths per year for every 100,000 people. In 2012, there were only 486 reported for the entire state. The United States Census Bureau estimates that there are just above 2 million people living in New Mexico as of 2012.
The drop in deaths between 2011 and 2012 is estimated to be roughly 7%. Between the years of 1999 and 2010, the deaths in New Mexico from drug overdoses rose 59%. That is quite a drastic turnaround.
What Is Prescription Drug Abuse?
Prescription drugs are drugs that a prescribed by doctors for specific usage in specific quantities. The types of prescription drugs that are abused are typically painkillers such as morphine and Valium. Abuse technically falls under the definition of users of prescription drugs taking more than they should at a higher frequency than is recommended.
According to the article Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies To Stop The Epidemic published in 10/2013 by HealthyAmericans.org, prescription drug overdose deaths now outnumber those of cocaine and heroin combined. The article explains, “prescription drug abuse has quickly become a top public health concern, as the number of drug overdose deaths - a majority of which are from prescription drugs - doubled in 29 states since 1999. The rates quadrupled in four of these states and tripled in 10 more of these states.”
Drug overdose deaths exceed vehicle-related deaths in 29 states and Washington D.C.
Curbing The Epidemic
There are several factors that states are rated on when it comes to how they handle the ongoing epidemic of prescription drug abuse. These factors are how each state was rated in the same report that rated New Mexico and Vermont to be the best states in the country that are combating the prescription drug abuse problem.
Things are swinging favorably across the country when it comes to the mortality rate of prescription drug abuse. The number of Americans who are abusing prescription drugs across the country went from roughly 7 million people in 2010 to 6.1 million in 2011 and continues to decline. The factors that are helping curb this epidemic are, as reported by HealthyAmericans.org:
- Rescue Drug Laws: Just over one-third of states (17 and Washington, D.C.) have a law in place to expand access to, and use of naloxone - a prescription drug that can be effective in counteracting an overdose - by lay administrators.
- Good Samaritan Laws: Just over one-third of states (17 and Washington, D.C.) have laws in place to provide a degree of immunity from criminal charges or mitigation of sentencing for individuals seeking to help themselves or others experiencing an overdose.
- Medical Provider Education Laws: Fewer than half of states (22) have laws that require or recommend education for doctor and other healthcare providers who prescribe prescription pain medication.
- Support for Substance Abuse Treatment: Nearly half of states (24 and Washington, D.C.) are participating in Medicaid Expansion - which helps expand coverage of substance abuse services and treatment.
- ID Requirement: 32 states have a law requiring or permitting a pharmacist to require an ID prior to dispensing a controlled substance.
- Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs: While nearly every state (49) has a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) to help identify "doctor shoppers," problem prescribers and individuals in need of treatment, these programs vary dramatically in funding, use and capabilities. For instance, only 16 states require medical providers to use PMDPs.
- New Mexico has instituted each and every one of these policies and the results are showing. Only time will tell if the rest of the country will follow suit and initiate similar policies as well.